CosmeticsDesign spoke with Ludovic Wassermann, cosmetics and personal care business consultant at Centric Software, about the role software plays in today's push for sustainability and in the future of a sustainable personal care market.
How do you see technology fitting into meeting sustainability demands?
When you have sustainability goals, where do you define them? If you don’t have any tools, you'll define them somewhere in an Excel spreadsheet or whatever. This is something that you have to define, you have to monitor, you have to implement solutions to make sure that you reach your goals, and then you have to report on it.
Of course, there are a lot of things that are created for the production of ingredients, logistics and transportation, which will have a direct impact on the environment. The tools are very important.
A simple example of something we address with our solution is simply to gather the data. It's very important to gather the data from suppliers for our clients. They need to know when they get ingredients what the carbon footprint of that ingredients is and what the impact on the environment is.
They need to gather this information, store it somewhere, then they need a tool to process it. In that sense, software is important to define goals, monitor and attain the goals, and then report them.
What innovations in this technology have you seen over the last couple of years?
In my opinion, this is in the early stage of like innovation.
The challenge we have right now is for our clients to actually get the data. We can set up a lot of great solutions, but if you don't actually have the data to work with, it's a problem.
We have seen new databases emerging. For instance, there are some companies that pooled their resources together, L’Oreal, Chanel, Hermès and other companies, to create a solution that they call SPICE. It's a database for packaging.
You have some other inefficiencies across different markets that are creating databases because data is the foundation we need. This is an innovation itself.
On our side, essentially what we're trying to do is to provide the tools to use that data when you develop products and make sure that the products have the best profile possible.
Can you tell me a little bit more about the challenges around collecting data?
The challenge is that when our clients try to rely on their packaging suppliers, ingredient suppliers or vendors, often the suppliers themselves don't have the data. If you ask them what the weight of the packaging material is, fortunately, it's quite simple.
But then if you ask for information like the exact carbon footprint of that material and the amount of water used to produce that material, they don't know. It's very complex to get this data.
What else can be improved on to make this technology more effective?
First is how different markets actually see sustainability. Right now, end sustainability goals are set by the market of consumers. If you look at Europe and the US, people are now well aware of the problem, and they want more suitable products. But if you go to other countries, that’s not necessarily the case.
Countries may have different regulations and different practices in the industry. Markets that have a global supply chain may have to make something work for the US that is relying on other markets that don't have the same vision.
The hope is also that the whole digital ecosystem of solutions would be seamlessly integrated. This is something that is still new and emerging, so it's going to take some time before we actually have an ecosystem that is stabilized and mature and that can be interconnected.
What do you see as the next step in the broader landscape of sustainability software?
The next step is for companies like us to be able to actually get that data to speak to users. When you create the lifecycle assessments for products, it's a complex equation because it's not just about the weight of the packaging and the print of that specific label and bottle.
It's actually all the water that is used to produce it, the carbon footprint in the transportation, the water that is used by the consumer and the effort to recycle that bottle. Then can it actually be recycled? What is the impact of that product when it goes down the drain? There is also the impact on the consumer itself, the person who's actually applying the product to the skin.
This is a very complex equation and for companies like us which are the solution used to develop the products, our challenge and future is to provide a tool that helps our clients to consider this whole life cycle.
Right now, to be honest, there are a lot of things that are not necessarily considered in the whole lifecycle of a product. This is something I see in the future as very important, to have the whole lifecycle considered and have real metrics because we don't necessarily have them yet.